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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

A new application for presenting tuition fees on the website

We just finished building a replacement tuition fees application which improves processes and makes our colleagues’ lives easier. The most important part for me, though, is the groundwork for future enhancements to the presentation of tuition fees for our replacement degree finders.


In 2020 we worked closely with our colleagues in the Fees Team to enhance the website experience for finding tuition fee information; this included accessing fees from the degree finders. However, we did not evolve the back-end processes which lead to fees being published on the website.

Through this work, and as we continued to work with the Fees Team on small tweaks and changes, we learnt a lot about the behind-the-scenes processes which result in fee information being published on the website.

So, when in 2022 we were informed that the technology which delivers the presentation of tuition fees would be reaching end of life, it gave us the perfect opportunity to propose how we might replace this technology and at the same time lay the groundwork for future enhancements.

Proposing a new solution

Working closely with colleagues in the Fees Team, Student Systems and the IS Applications Directorate, I produced a paper which set out various options for addressing the immediate problem: the end of life of our existing software.

In the paper I also proposed further enhancements that would align with our ambitions of a new future state for prospective student web content.

In organisations like the University, it’s not often that we get the opportunity to rebuild something from the ground up – that really is a once-in-a-decade type event. The opportunity to not only replace and rebuild an end-of-life application, but to do it in a way which lays the foundations and aligns with our vision for a future website experience, was too great for us to pass up.

Our team works with the Fees Service on a regular basis, so we really were in the best possible position to be taking on this work.

In the spring of 2022, the solution I set out in the paper was adopted and I began building the new application.

Replacing technology, enhancing service

This wasn’t just about building a new model for tuition fees information, it was also about strengthening and building our relationships with colleagues in Fees and Student Systems, by improving their processes and making their lives easier.

Early in the project, we identified two key issues that we sought to improve:

  • Lack of visibility for the Fees Team into backend processes
  • Content changes which require a software developer to be involved, but really shouldn’t

Better visibility for the Fees Team into backend processes

With the old system, the Fees Team did not have very good visibility into the backend processes and database. This resulted in them needing to log support calls any time the website wasn’t displaying the correct information.

We addressed this by providing an interface that our Fees colleagues can log into to see exactly what data is being presented on the website, to make changes themselves and to upload new datasets, all without needing to request time from other teams.

Content changes which require a software developer to be involved

Up until now any content changes required a software developer, like me, to action. Our content teams work closely with the fees service, but requiring a software developer to update content results in a bottleneck and is not an efficient use of resource.

While building the new application we made sure that content changes could be done by a content designer, with no involvement from software development.

Building a solid and sustainable application

It was important that this new application be built:

  • using best practices
  • using supported technology
  • within the existing support models

This is where our strong partnership with the IS Applications Directorate was critical. The teams in Applications are experts at building and running business-critical software.

Up until now the current technology did not have a support model around it; Instead, it was built up over years of ad-hoc changes and improvements. So, building the application within the support structures of the Applications Directorate would be critical to long-term success.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Probably the biggest challenge to overcome was that a formal project had not been established around this work.

As the lead software developer working on the application, I did a lot of the initial business analysis and software development, but as I progressed it was clear that I could not do it alone. If it were not for the good will of colleagues from across IS Applications to see through this work, we would not be where we are today.

As the saying goes “it takes a village…” and that was very true here. While the work began with just me, by the time we went live, we had a whole team of people involved. To name just a few, I was supported by:

  • Franck from Student Systems Partnership, our Project Manager
  • Gavin from the Software Development Team, who delivered some key functionality and did a lot of peer review work
  • Nik from the Development Technology Team, who got all of the infrastructure and technology in place

There are several other colleagues from across IS Applications who were involved for specific tasks that I’m also grateful to.

And of course, I couldn’t have done this without the time and collaboration of colleagues in the Fees Service and Student System who helped me understand the processes we needed to improve.

Launching the new service

The new application went live in late June. As a website user you probably won’t notice any differences, but the difference will be noticed by our colleagues in the Fees Service, Student Systems and in our Content Operations team.

Moving forward, we’ll reap the benefits as we start to integrate fees data and content in new ways into the future website experiences for prospective students.

Learn more

If you’re interested in the work we’ve done with the Fees Services, read more of our blog posts on this topic.

More blog posts about our work with the Fees Service.

If you’d like to learn more about this work or the relationship between our team and the Fees Service, send me an email or leave a comment.

Aaron McHale’s staff profile and contact details.

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